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An unknown flower thief has been mysteriously targeting the gravestone of a Barking family’s relatives, taking fresh stems from the site five times this year alone and leaving family members upset but defiant.

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Teresa Wright, 52, has been placing flowers at the Rippleside Cemetery graves of her nan and grandad, Catherine and Cyril Comley for nearly 23 years.

She visits the site almost daily, where she pays her respects not only to her grandparents but also her sister, Tracy Marshall, who died from breast cancer aged 42. But the flowers are only taken from her grandparents’ gravestone.

“A couple of times I thought it might have been squirrels pulling them out of the vase, but then I thought it was silly and that they couldn’t have taken that many flowers,” said Mrs Wright.

The first theft happened in March and has been continuing at random intervals throughout the year. Despite leaving notes to try to deter any further thefts, the family were targeted again last week.

Mrs Wright said her uncle and aunt left flowers at the grave on Saturday September 8, but by the time she arrived there the following Monday they were gone, along with the vase.

“How desperate can some people be just for a bunch of flowers?” she said.

“It’s coming up to the anniversary of my nan’s death this week and the thought of putting flowers down only to have someone take them is sickening.”

After reporting the latest incident to cemetery staff last Wednesday, Mrs Wright insists staff are very helpful but are too few in number to tackle this sort of crime.

A council spokesman said: “We have asked staff to be extra vigilant in the light of these reported incidents.

“Unfortunately, it is very difficult for staff to tell whether a person removing flowers is genuine or otherwise.”

The council also admitted the problem is compounded by the size of the 31 acre site and that contact had been made with the local Safer Neighbourhoods Team.

Nonetheless, the family remain defiant. “We are still putting flowers down. I won’t stop doing it because somebody is stealing them, it isn’t fair,” said Mrs Wright.

“We take pride in looking after my nan and grandad’s grave.”

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